It's More Than 4 Walls

Written and published for Storehouse Magazine Issue 21; The Home Issue (Together, Together)

Images by Alisha Keevil

Home. There’s no place like it. But our interpretations on its meaning can differ based on our individual experiences. The conventional meaning of home is “the place where one lives” but in reality, everyone’s version is different. The way we perceive home has the ability to change as life progresses. At various stages, we feel more or less at home and are able to change or create a home. These perceptions are not constrained by four walls, but are more importantly based on the emotional attachment we have to people, places or a memory. A home is made up of traits that either draw us in or push us away and in most cases, the home that we all want to be a part of usually revolves around positivity.

Nature is not only home to a range of wildlife but is also proven to have positive physiological effects for humans. Mentally, the outdoors can have improving effects on our brain activity, stress, immune function and body tension. In addition to this, research shows that when humans are out in the open of nature, there is a feeling of connection and sense of belonging. This concept of connectedness is a vital characteristic of home, implying that we feel secure in our surroundings and within ourselves. There can be a sense of relief in the big outdoors, where the hecticness of life feels a million miles away, and gives many the chance to escape and relax. Time slows down, there’s no urgency and the earth allows us to move with our natural rhythm that isn’t controlled by deadlines and time keeping. Our bodies can be in complete calmness and escape temporarily from everything else. Being out in natures gives us all the chance to reflect, bringing us back to reality and teaches us to tune in with ourselves. For these reasons, many feel at home when they are surrounded by the natural environment and the happiness that it can bring. We are all connected to living things in some way or another and so our presence within wildlife provides a reminder of who we are and that we belong.​​​​​​​

Aside for our home in the environment, many see their home within themselves and not with what and who is around them. Homes are often described a symbol of one’s self and what better way to express this, than being your own sanctuary. This is especially noticeable amongst Third Culture Kids (TCK) who are born in one country and raised in another. For this reason, when asked where they are from, some feel an overwhelming identity crisis and this is reiterated in a speech by Abeer Yusuf, a journalist and TCK. She explains that the two addresses you may call home, may not feel the same way back to each other. For example, when she goes back to her origins of India, she is identified as a visitor from Kuwait, however when she returns the country she was raised in, Kuwait, she is seen as a citizen from India. As a result, she questions her identity. The truth is, nobody has to feel at home at any address. Feeling at home can be identified within us individually, where we can create our own secure, comfortable and accepting environment – all the same traits a physical house possesses. In this instance, our bodies are the shell of the home and what we hold inside is home to our thoughts, feelings and memories. For TCKs and many others, wherever they are at a given time, is where they call home because they are present. Home matters and so does identity.

As clique as it sounds, many find a home within others. Thousands of people find themselves homeless and sleeping rough each year, there is no national figure for how many, but the numbers are certainly rising. People can become homeless for a variety of reasons, but unfortunately, this leaves many without security and safety in their own space and sometimes within themselves. Because of this, a personal and physical home is lost, however, many look to create a support network with others acting as a lifeline to build a community amongst those in the same or similar positions. A home is formed with those surrounding, providing a type of comfort and reassurance, with some even growing in optimism for the future. I certainly cannot speak for the thousands in this situation, but this example connects the importance of community networks and their effect on making people feel reassured. Like the idea of finding home within one’s self, the same applies with the people you chose to surround yourself with. For many students, moving away to attend university is a very daunting process and can leave some feeling alone. The friends we make during our time at uni become a replica of home and overtime, the period of life at uni becomes a second home and not just because of the student houses we find ourselves living in.

These examples are just a small insight of how and where home can be sensed. It’s a feeling. You know when you feel at home and when you feel anywhere but. Finding a home is an individual experience and is based on positive memories, people, places and so many more factors. Home is a sanctuary, a firewall against chaos and somewhere to escape from the commotion of the world. There is no checklist for the perfect home because everyone looks for different characteristics. We build our homes based on our individuality, which is why they are all different, each reflecting ourselves and varying feelings of comfort, security and sense of belonging. Being at home shouldn’t reduce us to one idea of what that is. Home is wherever you wish to be. It is so much more than 4 walls.

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